The dreaded plait. We have all been there, early on show mornings – fiddling about with bands and/or thread, cold fingers and horses that wont keep their head and neck still! Most people groan at the thought of plaiting up but with our easy to follow guide, this should help you feel more confident about plaiting, make plaiting easier for you and achieve great results each time.
Why do we plait?
Plaiting horses manes dates back to centuries ago when it was sensible to tie manes up out of the way for horses used in transportation. It has military roots in the British Army and also in the hunting field where it was considered good etiquette and form to plait horses out of respect.
In today’s equestrian world we plait for dressage, showing classes, pony club and hunting (after the opening meet). Some people also like to plait for show jumping. Different levels of competition can be more specific in their rules for when plaits are or are not required. Plaiting also helps to show off the horses topline and neck.
Plaiting with bands is more common nowadays. You can also use thread or a combination of the two. Some people dampen the mane with water, others use gel or spray, and if your horse doesn’t mind you can also apply a little hair spray to fix the plaits in place at the end. Plaiting with bands is certainly easier and this is why we have chosen to use bands for our step by step guide. Bands were introduced as a more modern way to plait, to save time and make life easier.
How to Plait with bands
Firstly make sure you have the correct colour bands for your horses colour of mane i.e For a grey horse use white bands. You can buy bands in brown, black and white to suit the differing mane colours.
1.Take time to brush through the mane to remove any tangles or knots. We would advise not to apply mane conditioner as this makes the hair slippery and difficult to keep hold of.
Either dampen the mane with water and a water brush, or run gel through the mane to wet it down. This makes it more manageable.
2.Separate the mane into even sections with the total number of sections including the forelock being an un-even number. Band each section to hold it in place.
Make sure you have enough bands to hand now and a short toothed pulling comb.
3.Take your first section of hair and remove the holding band.
Re-comb through the hair and then divide into three sections, plait the hair downward – using an outside over inside repetition. I find keeping the hair tight and slightly pulling upwards as you plait keeps the plait straight. When the plait is finished, secure it with an elastic band at the bottom. Go ahead and repeat this down the entire mane.
4.When that’s complete fold the bottoms of the plait up to keep loose ends out of the way and secure round with a band. You can then roll the plait up into a knot. Folding usually about twice should do it. You will be left with a tiny little bun at the end. This is then secured with another band or two to keep it in place. The tighter the plait, the neater the rolled up end result. Repeat for all sections down the mane until all is plaited.
What about the forelock?
5.When you get to the forelock stand in front of the horses head. Brush the forelock down and dampen the hair as required, then take a small piece of hair from the middle and plait it just once top down to bottom. Then start working in bits from the outside like we would a French plait – outside over inside and gather as you go. When you get to the bottom and all the hair is included secure it with a band. Tucking the end under the plait and securing with another band will leave a tidy shape at the front.
Why not try fixing the plaits with spray? (if your horse doesn’t mind spray!) You can then stand back and admire your handiwork. Plaiting is one of those things that comes under the ‘practice makes perfect’ banner. Take some time to practice when you can and then on the morning of a competition you will feel less pressure. Good Luck!